Treatment for Vascular Compression Syndrome
While rare, cranial vascular compression syndromes including hemifacial spasm, vertigo, and glossopharyngeal neuralgia can occur just as trigeminal neuralgia (TN) can, although virtually never in the same person. Vascular compression syndromes are caused by pressure being applied to different cranial nerves, usually a blood vessel, and the symptoms reflect a hyperactivity of the original function of that nerve. Like TN, they are typically sudden in onset and vary in severity.
The Colorado Trigeminal Neuralgia Clinic is well versed in treating all areas of the brainstem, including those affected by vascular compression syndromes. We provide comprehensive assessments, ensuring that whether you suffer from trigeminal neuralgia or any other compression syndrome, you receive care tailored to your specific needs. Our experts treat patients from throughout Colorado, Wyoming, western Kansas, and New Mexico.
Hemifacial spasm is caused by compression of the facial (7th) cranial nerve. Most commonly characterized by involuntary spasms on one side of the face, hemifacial spasm rarely occurs on both sides of the face. Often it starts as a subtle twitching of the eye but can evolve over months or years to include the mouth and the entire side of the face, occasionally becoming so severe that driving and other daily activities are rendered difficult or dangerous due to effects on vision of the affected side. Hemifacial spasm is more common in elderly women and people of Asian descent and affects roughly 1 in 100,000 people.
Botox is typically the first treatment option for hemifacial spasm. In more severe or unresponsive cases, microvascular decompression (MVD) is recommended.
For more information about hemifacial spasm, these online resources may be helpful:
- Hemifacial Spasm Association
- Hemifacial Spasm Information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Nearly 40 percent of Americans experience vertigo, also known as dizziness, in their lifetime. While vertigo typically results from issues with the peripheral vestibular system, vertigo can, in rare cases, be caused by compression of the vestibulocochlear (8th) cranial nerve, which is responsible for balance. Such a diagnosis must be confirmed through imaging and other studies. Intractable vertigo related to vascular compression can sometimes be treated with microvascular decompression (MVD).
For more information about vertigo related to vascular compression, these online resources and articles may be helpful:
- Vestibular Disorders Association
- American Hearing Research Foundation
- Wuertenberger, C., Rosahl, S. "Vertigo and Tinnitus Caused By Vascular Compression of the Vestibulocochlear Nerve ..." Skull Base. 2009 November; 19(6): 417–42
Most often caused by compression of the glossopharyngeal (9th) cranial nerve, glossopharyngeal neuralgia is the least common vascular compression syndrome, affecting roughly 1 in 125,000 people, most of whom are 40 years of age or older. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia can cause severe pain in the back of the nose and throat, tongue, or, in rare instances, the ear. The jabbing-like pain is typically on one side, with episodes occurring often throughout the day and night or only appearing every few weeks. Triggers for glossopharyngeal neuralgia can include chewing, coughing, laughing, swallowing, and speaking. Anticonvulsant medications and antidepressants are commonly used to treat the syndrome, while severe cases may require microvascular decompression (MVD).
For more information about glossopharyngeal neuralgia, these online resources may be helpful:
- Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia Information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- New York Times Health Guide on Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia
- Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia Support Group